Friday, September 10, 2004


As promised, the call of crappy TV forces me from comics before I actually have ever said word one. You have to go with the passion, though, and what forces me to write is my strong reaction to NBC’s new CSI meets the Agency meets really-sloppy-writing drama “Medical Investigation.” This is not the first bad show of the year (I turned to my wife 35 minutes into the pilot of “North Shore” and said “If they don’t blow it in the last half, this may be the worst pilot I’ve ever seen”), but this one was somehow uniquely offensive to me.

The show has that NBC house brand production (all their shows seem to be shot on the same film stock, with similar camera work) which works fine. The lead actors are that weird looking guy from “Band of Brothers” and Minority Report whose name I can never remember (and I refuse to look it up on principle) and the non-fat white lawyer from “the Practice” (she’s even more non-fat now, having lost 15 pounds and all of her charisma). The weird looking guy (henceforth referred to as “weird looking guy”) is ideally suited to play authority figures who are unsettling not because of their actions, but because they are weird looking. He has intense unblinking light eyes which stay popped WIDE open, and a shock of blonde hair that looks like it belongs on another person (the first time I ever saw him, probably Angels in the Outfield, I thought he had gotten a bad dye job for the role, but at this point I theorize that it must really be his). It is like a male no-cosmetics-necessary version of those hyper-tanned women who wear light colored make-up – he looks like a photo negative.

Enough! WLG didn’t bother me that much, and the emaciated 5/6ths that’s left of Kelli Williams (the Practice chick – see I know some names) was too innocuous to really bother me. The rest of the actors were not really noteworthy. The production was OK. So what bothered me sooooo much? This show is constructed to rely almost entirely on its medical detective plotlines (thus living and dying by its writing and research), and it has THE LEAST BELIEVABLE MEDICAL CONTENT EVER.

The A plot commits the greater sin of being utter fucking hogwash, but the B plot actually offended me more. A plot rundown (warning ****SPOILERS**** that may hamper your enjoyment of the tense suspense achieved during every minute of this taut drama): Instead of shipping salt, a food company actually ships saltpeter, a meat preservative and well known military de-lebidinizer, in salt cannisters. Apparently, the one diner that gets it salt quicker than everyone else, puts it in a shaker, and everyone who uses it turns blue and dies in the exact same amount of time (we know, because the number of minutes left per patient is stated as a bold absolute as if they had a time-bomb display over their heads). They figure out the thing because the smrufy dying patients have a large amount of nitrite in their “brackish” blood (whatever that means), which turns blue (see blue, blue – its science!) in a test tube. The TV in a “scoop” (don’t ask) reports that the salt is benignly being recalled, and all is right with the world.

Since absolutely nothing here made any sense, I guess that’s why it wasn’t that bothersome. The B plot, however, took the medical show-of-the-last-10-years standby osteogenesis imperfecta and fucked up everything around it (usual plot – med stud thinks baby is abused, consequently is mean to parents, attending reviews case and looks at X-rays, blue sclera noted, attending says “don’t you study,” student is appropriately ashamed as parents leave with baby and glare at them). The same basic plot is in place here, except the first step is a resident (who obviously had never seen Unbreakable or taken step 2 of the boards) knows “something’s wrong” which, as is standard procedure, dictates that she must call her sister from mythical NIH offices, so that they can send some MD field agent in training (during a suspected “biologic crisis” I might add) to help. The agent (who obviously had never seen Unbreakable or taken step 2 of the boards) says “yes, something’s wrong” and orders some tests. An evil doctor, accompanied for some unknown reason by an even more evil hospital administrator (neither of whom has ever seen Unbreakable or taken step 2 of the boards, but who seem to have just stepped out of a fairy tale via the principles office of Rock-and-Roll High School) threatens to arrest him, but lets him send the tests (whew!), where the “orphan” brittle bone disease (later in the show called osteogenesis imperfecta just so you know they know) is uncovered. Did I mention the glow in the dark blue sclera? Would it have killed them to crack a textbook?

I don’t even want to address the interpersonal stuff, which was complexly so-so. I predict week three for a terrorist attack (you know its coming), but I won’t be there to see it.


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